In this edition of the Rational Faiths podcast Benjamin Knoll interviews Michael Ferguson on the neuroscience of religious experience. We cover a variety of topics including:

  • A brief overview of Michael’s background with the fascinating field of brain science.
  • A brief summary of some recent research on what is going on in our bodies when people “feel the Spirit.”
  • Philosophical framings of naturalism, materialism, dualism, and monism.
  • The foundations of Mormonism and how research in neuroscience may help us understand the Joseph Smith story, including the First Vision and the translation of the Book of Mormon.
  • The implications for this research for the “mechanics” of spiritual experience and what we can learn from it.

At various points Benjamin plays the critic and asks whether this research means that all spiritual experiences are ultimately nothing more than neurons knocking into each other in our brains. Michael’s answers are fascinating.




Benjamin Knoll is a political science professor at a liberal arts college in central Kentucky. He is a seventh-generation Mormon (on his mother's side) who finds meaningful religious and spiritual expression in a variety of traditions, practices, and contexts. He's a married father of three girls.

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